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Threatened, Thrashed And Raped : Afghanistan’s Invisible Taliban Child Brides and Widows are Trapped in Sex Slavery
- Child and forced marriage remain a common practice in Afghanistan, particularly among poor families in lure of dowries.
- Young child brides of Islamist Taliban are denied educated and are often treated as sex slaves
- After the death of their militant husbands, Taliban widows are shunned by their family and society alike and remain beyond the reach of government aids
London, August 24, 2017: Fatima’s Taliban husband was so controlling that he refused to allow her to bathe and threatened to burn her face if she dared wear makeup, suspicious that his 12-year-old Afghan wife was trying to make herself attractive to other men.
He would not let her step outside their home in Afghanistan’s western Farah Province, even when she fell sick, and beat her for burning her hand baking bread, complaining that her mother had taught her nothing to justify the dowry he paid.
“My father sold me to a man at a time when I didn’t know anything about the responsibilities of marriage,” she told Reuters in a phone interview from the capital, Kabul, where she and her young daughter are hiding.
“He became my lawful husband and began to rape me and beat me every single day for not consenting [to sex],” said the 18-year-old, who would not give her full name.
Child and forced marriage are outlawed but remain common in Afghanistan, particularly among poor families eager for dowries.
Half of all girls are married by the age of 15.
Among the most invisible victims are the wives of Islamist Taliban hardliners who, when in power, barred women from education and most work and ordered them to wear burqas outside the home, before being overthrown in 2001 by U.S.-led forces.
“Being family members of the most dangerous and ruthless fighters who have plenty of enemies among the people makes it difficult for these women,” said Shukria Barakzai, a parliamentarian and women’s rights campaigner. “They are treated as sex slaves and left completely helpless.”
When their militant husbands die, life often gets worse for young Taliban brides. Their families are too scared to take them in, society treats them as pariahs, and they risk further violent abuse as unprotected single women.
About a year into their marriage, Fatima’s 25-year-old husband — she calls him a “veteran criminal” with stockpiles of ammunition in their home — blew up a police officer and was jailed for 18 years.
He was released in late 2016, after serving just four years — a common phenomenon in Afghanistan, where the Taliban often hold influence over the government.
But he never came home.
His brothers told Fatima they believed he had sacrificed himself in a suicide attack and become a martyr.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, estimates that several hundred women become Taliban widows each year.
“My brother-in-law was planning to force me to marry him and sell my four-year-old daughter to a Taliban commander,” she said, referring to the dowry that would be paid for her child.
“This evil plan agonized me and at the same time emboldened me to run away, regardless of the consequences.”
Under the pretext of attending a village wedding with her mother-in-law, Fatima ran away with her child.
Her father would not take her in, but her cousins helped her get to Kabul.
“Every one of my in-laws is a Taliban member and they vowed to slay my whole family to bring justice,” she said.
To the Taliban, justice means killing Fatima and her family for the shame she brought by running away from home.
Jihadis in training
Zari, another Taliban widow, who was forcibly married at the age of 14, was not so lucky.
Three years after her husband died in a suicide attack, she remains trapped in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, tormented by his cousins who rape her repeatedly and are raising her sons, aged nine and 11, to become jihadis.
The men, who are members of the Taliban, come to the house where she lives with her elderly mother-in-law a couple of times a week to rape her, threatening to kill her if she tells anyone.
“I urge the government to rescue me and my sons as their future is in grave danger,” the 26-year-old, who declined to give her real name, said in a phone interview.
“They plan to send both of my sons to Pakistan to participate in jihad. … They take my elder son for religious indoctrination and training to become a militant like his father.”
Neither the government nor rights groups can access Taliban widows living with their in-laws in remote, rebel-controlled territory. Conflict makes it impossible for them to provide for themselves, forcing them to live with their in-laws.
Neither boy goes to school because Zari cannot afford books or uniforms with the money she earns weaving or from her cows.
“I want to escape with my sons, but my family is not ready to accept me and jeopardize themselves,” she said, adding that her family did not know they were marrying her into the Taliban.
Afghanistan has about 5 million widows, said a spokeswoman for the women’s affairs ministry, Kobra Rezai. It can only afford to provide about 100,000 of them with about $100 a month in financial support and skills training, she said.
None are Taliban widows.
The government does not want to be seen to be supporting them, Rezai said, a position condemned by Barakzai, the parliamentarian.
“Circumstances push [Taliban widows] into a precarious position and compel them to continue their lives as sex slaves in the hands of Taliban,” she said. “Even their children have no way out of this vicious trap.” (VOA)
South India is renowned for many things that elicit culture and tradition. One of the things normally associated with this intricate and impenetrably tradition-bound group of people is their immense love for gold. Their temples, sarees, utensils, and sometimes even food are coated in gold. Their jewellery, while stunning, often bears social implications within their own family hierarchies. One of these traditions is upheld even during Deepavali.
A practice followed usually in wealthy households, Thalai Deepavali is the first Deepavali celebrated after the daughter of the house is married off. During her wedding, the father of the bride would have put up a spectacle, no doubt, but on this occasion as well, he has to host his son-in-law with all the splendour he can afford.
A gold ring studded with diamonds Image credit: Wikimedia commons
The newlyweds come to the bride's house to celebrate an elaborate week of festivities. During their stay, no work is required of them. They are pampered and fed with the best food, choice delicacies, and clothed in beautiful adornments. The son-in-law is taken very good care of and is looked up to as the one who takes up responsibility for the welfare of his bride.
Thalai Deepavali is an intimate celebration while it lasts, but its success reflects only when the groom goes back home. As tradition requires, the bride's father is supposed to present the groom with a ring made of gold. Ideally, it is supposed to represent his worth in the family. Based on the prosperity of the bride's family, and the social standing of the groom's family, the ring is also set with precious stones. It is believed that the pure and unchanging nature of gold will rub off on the wearer. It is every father's wish that his daughter is well-placed in the in-laws' house. When the groom returns home, if the ring does not meet the expectations of his family, it is likely that the relations between both families are soured for a long time.
Deepavali celebrations in Chennai, Tamil Nadu Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
As enduring as gold is in the southern states, it is a symbol of their culture more than anything else. On the occasion of Deepavali as well, gold is the light that shines on a girl's marital life and the blessing to her husband's family.
Keywords: Thalai Deepavali, Family Celebration, elicit culture and tradition.
Deepavali or Diwali is the name given to the Festival of Lights (deep-lamp, vali - array) and is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and certain Buddhists. The celebration lasts five days and is held during the Hindu lunisolar month of Kartika. Diwali represents the spiritual winning of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.
During Diwali, people dress in their best clothes, decorate their homes with diyas and rangoli, hold worship ceremonies for Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, light fireworks, and gather with their families for family feasts during which sweets and gifts are exchanged.
Diwali is a joyous festival in the Jammu and Kashmir Province, just as it is across the rest of India. The whole city of Jammu comes to life during Diwali, and there is a palpable sense of excitement in the air. In preparation for the festival, many begin decorating their homes several months in advance. While some people paint their houses, others meticulously clean their homes.
Diwali is a joyous festival in the Jammu and Kashmir Province, just as it is across the rest of India. | Photo by Umesh Soni on Unsplash
On Diwali, people put on new clothing and proceed to temples, where they buy large quantities of sweets to distribute to friends and family. To light their homes and places of business, people also purchase earthen lamps, candles, and electrical accessories.
But, Kashmiri Pandits do not celebrate Diwali with great zeal since they adhere to Shivaism, i.e., they follow the Hindu God Shiva in particular. On this day, however, they perform Puja, which is a religious ceremony.
Many people are seen during the evening hours when devotees flock to temples in Srinagar and elsewhere to offer special prayers and light lamps to commemorate the occasion. The sweet stores in Srinagar bustle with customers as Muslims exchange sweets with their Hindu friends and acquaintances.
Keywords: Diwali in Jammu, Kashmiri Pandits, Diyas, temples, Srinagar, Muslims, Lakshmi- Shiva,
Diwali is known for gifting and jewellery tops the list, with the focus on buying gold and diamonds. ORRA jewellery, a trusted diamond jewellery brand is gearing up for the festive and bridal season. As they open their 50th store in the country, IANSlife caught up with Dipu Mehta, Managing Director, ORRA, to find out how the company plans to ramp up its now 50 company-owned and operated stores, expanding its retail presence in Tier-1 and 2 cities and target the millennial segment.
Q: The brand is expanding in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, is brick and mortar the way forward to create a presence in this segment?
A: ORRA currently is expanding in metros plus tier-2 cities. But we aren't opening stores in any new markets. We are only opening in markets where we are already present. We are increasing the number of stores within cities as the demand for jewellery buying has also increased. Currently, we are present in 25 cities with 50 stores, and by the end of the month, we would be launching another seven stores.
Also with a category like jewellery, it is important to have brick and mortar stores as the customers like to see and hold higher value jewellery before purchasing. Jewellery buying is an important decision to the customers and having a store gives them that assurance.
ORRA currently is expanding in metros plus tier-2 cities. | Wikimedia Commons
Q: Jewellery is recession-proof do you agree and why?
A: Jewellery buying in India has always been an emotional and occasion-led purchase. It is also considered a great investment. The pandemic has affected all industries and the purchase pattern of consumers has slowed down. We wouldn't call it recession-proof but due to the festive season coming up, we predict a good season for all retailers.
Jewellery buying in India has always been an emotional and occasion led purchase. | Photo by Joeyy Lee on Unsplash
Q: The small Indian wedding doesn't mean that jewellery gets minimal, it just means people are investing more in jewellery. Please elaborate on how the brand's consumer behaviour has shifted in this regard.
A: Weddings in the family has always been a strong motivator for bridal jewellery purchase. It doesn't matter if the wedding is on a large scale or small scale, the kind of jewellery worn has been large. The only difference we see now is due to the pandemic and the limited number of guests at weddings the families are spending more money than before on buying diamond jewellery. We have seen the customers upgrade to higher-value diamond necklaces than ever before.
Weddings in the family has always been a strong motivator for bridal jewellery purchase. | Photo by Aayush(gop) Rawat on Unsplash
Q: The brand is the only one to offer 0 per cent interest EMI on diamond jewellery. Please share the idea behind this and what is the impact it has had on sales?
A: The idea came from the insight that during a wedding in the family, the father of the bride is always the most worried about all the wedding expenses. At ORRA, we understand this and decided to offer 0 per cent interest EMI.
We are the only brand offering 0 per cent interest EMI on diamond jewellery and we have seen a great response from customers. Offering this has led a lot of customers to upgrade the jewellery and purchase larger pieces. We are seeing a growing trend of customers who prefer buying jewellery on EMI and to pay it in equal monthly installments instead of paying the whole amount in one go.
OORA is the only brand offering 0 per cent interest EMI on diamond jewellery and they have seen a great response from customers. | Needpix
Q: The millennial and Gen Z as a segment, how important are they to you and are you doing any digital marketing for this audience?
A: The millennial and Gen z customers are extremely important to us and we launched our 'Desired Collection' specially to target this age group and style. This generation has a distinct style and makes their own decisions, they are tech savvy and are comfortable making jewellery purchases on our e-commerce website. They love a good deal along with great designs and quality products. Our customers are extremely engaged with us on our social media handles and we ensure that we respond to all their product-related queries within a day. We also have live chat and video calling facility which helps them make a decision.
OORA's customers are extremely engaged with them on our social media handles and they ensure that they respond to all their product-related queries within a day. | Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash
Q: Lastly what are the trends you predict for 2021 and 2022?
A: We see an upward trend this season and in the coming few months. We see an increase in demand in diamond jewellery purchases and with the help of 0 percent interest EMI we can see more and more customers buying larger pieces of diamond jewellery. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: diamond jewellery purchase, Diwali is known for gifting and jewelry, festive and bridal season,